Warren, Schumer, Jayapal, Pressley, Omar, Porter Urge President Biden to Deliver on Promise to Cancel Student Debt
More than 80 Bicameral Lawmakers Call for Immediate Release of Memo on Legal Authority to Use Executive Action to Cancel Student Debt and Use Authority to Cancel Up to $50,000 for Federal Borrowers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), and United States Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) led more than 80 Senate and House colleagues calling on the Biden administration to release the Department of Education’s (ED) memo outlining the administration’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt and immediately cancel up to $50,000 of debt for Federal student loan borrowers.
“Canceling $50,000 of student debt would give 36 million Americans permanent relief and aid the millions more who will eventually resume payments their best chance at thriving in our recovering economy. In light of high COVID-19 case counts and corresponding economic disruptions, restarting student loan payments without this broad cancellation would be disastrous for millions of borrowers and their families,” wrote the lawmakers.
While the lawmakers applauded President Biden’s decision to extend the federal student loan payment pause as the Omicron variant spreads, they are urging the President to do more to provide permanent relief for millions of borrowers and help families avoid financial hardship as the economy recovers. During the payment pause, borrowers have been able to use their student loan payments to pay down other debt, support their families, and make ends meet. Once the pause ends, over a quarter of borrowers expect at least one-third of their income will go towards student loans — and $85 billion would be stripped from the national economy over the next year. Canceling $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower would help millions of Americans afford homes and access important paths to the middle class, help narrow the racial and gender wealth gap in Black and Brown communities that have been exacerbated by discriminatory policies and systemic barriers, increase borrowers’ ability to retire, and support a strong economic recovery.
President Biden has the legal authority to cancel student debt under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In April 2021, the White House promised to release their own memo on their ability to cancel student debt through administrative action but they have yet to publicly release the details of the memo.
The lawmakers continued: “Publicly releasing the memo outlining your existing authority on canceling student debt and broadly doing so is crucial to making a meaningful difference in the lives of current students, borrowers, and their families. It has been widely reported that the Department of Education has had this memo since April 5, 2021 after being directed to draft it.
We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to deliver relief to the millions of families inspired by your proposal to make a debt-free college degree within their reach by eliminating up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all families before payments resume.”
The letter was signed in the Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).
The letter was signed in the House by Representatives Alma S. Adams, PhD, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Karen Bass, Earl Blumenauer, Jamaal Bowman ,Ed.D., Brendan F. Boyle, Tony Cárdenas, Andre Carson, Judy Chu, David N. Cicilline, Yvette Clarke, J. Luis Correa, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Mark DeSaulnier, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Ruben Gallego, Jesus G. “Chuy” García, Jimmy Gomez, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jahana Hayes, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kaiali‘i Kahele, Ro Khanna, Ann Kirkpatrick, John B. Larson, Al Lawson, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Frank Pallone, Jimmy Panetta, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda T. Sánchez, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Schiff, Terri A. Sewell, Albio Sires, Darren Soto, Mark Takano, Rashida Tlaib, Benny G. Thompson, Ritchie Torres, Juan Vargas, Nydia M. Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Nikema Williams, and Frederica S. Wilson.
Senator Warren is one of the nation’s leading voices calling for student debt cancellation to boost our economy, help close the racial wealth gap for borrowers, and put an end to predatory practices that harm and trap borrowers in years of debt.
- Senator Warren, along with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) released new analysis showing that resuming student loan payments would strip $85 billion every year from the economy.
- Senator Warren, along with Senators Van Hollen (D-Md.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Smith (D-Minn.), sent letters to four federal loan servicers, requesting information on their plans to support borrowers when student loan payments resume.
- Senator Warren, along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) sent a letter to Maximus, the company that is assuming Navient’s federal student loans servicing contract, questioning its troubling history and seeking assurances that borrowers will receive appropriate services and protections during the transition.
- Senator Warren, along with Senators Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Department of Education urging Secretary Cardona to use his authority to automatically remove all student loan borrowers in default.
- Senator Warren, along with Senators Van Hollen, Blumenthal, Brown, Smith, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Robert Menendez (D- NJ.) sent letters to the heads of Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, Granite State, and Navient calling on them to correct past errors with borrowers’ accounts and address growing concerns over their preparedness to transfer millions of borrowers to new servicers.
- Senator Warren, along with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), released a report that detailed the ongoing failures of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for public servants in Massachusetts.
- At a hearing in July 2021, Senator Warren pushed for borrower protections after a major student loan servicing shakeup.
- In July 2021, Senator Warren released a statement regarding the end of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency's (PHEAA) contract servicing student loans with the Department of Education .
- In June 24, 2021, Senator Warren and John Kennedy (R-La.) called on PHEAA CEO to address concerns about false and misleading statements made during a subcommittee hearing on student loans, which was chaired by Senator Warren.
- In May 2021, Senator Warren led her colleagues in sending a letter requesting information about the steps the Department of Education and the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) are taking to help transition millions of federal student loan borrowers back into repayment ahead of the scheduled end to the pause on student loan payments and interest in September.
- In April 2021, Senators Warren and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) led a group of colleagues in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging the Department of Education to take swift action to automatically remove all federally-held student loan borrowers from default.
- That same month at her first hearing as chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Policy, Senator Warren called out PHEAA for its mismanagement of the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
- Senator Warren also questioned Jack Remondi, CEO of Navient, on the company's long history of abusive and misleading behavior towards borrowers and their profiting off the broken student loan system.
- Senator Warren has also been continuing her calls for President Biden to use his existing authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt and highlighted data that she obtained from the Education Department revealing the benefit of student debt cancellation.
- In March 2021, Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) applauded the passage of their Student Loan Tax Relief Act as part of the American Rescue Plan. The provision makes any student loan forgiveness tax-free, ensuring borrowers whose debt is fully or partially forgiven are not saddled with thousands of dollars in surprise taxes. During her time in the Senate, she has helped return tens of millions of dollars tax-free to students cheated by for-profit colleges.
- She demanded that the Department of Education hold student loan servicer, Great Lakes Education Loan Services, Inc., accountable for CARES Act blunder that likely lowered credit scores for millions of borrowers.
- She has worked with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) to close the racial wealth gap by introducing legislation, the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, which would cancel student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
- She prioritized student debt relief and fought to lower student loan interest rates, introducing the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act as her first bill in Congress.
- She conducted rigorous oversight of the for-profit college industry and helped secure three-quarters of a billion dollars in debt relief for students who were cheated by predatory for-profit colleges, including 4,500 Massachusetts students and more than 28,000 students across the country.
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